The stage is now set for Breaking Bad's final act

On the same evening Breaking Bad won two Emmy Awards, the series' penultimate episode takes the show into chilling territory — both literally and figuratively. Everything's in place now for next week's final episode. Spoilers to follow.

The episode, titled “Granite State,” opens with Saul awaiting a new identity. The now ex-lawyer learns that he’s heading to Nebraska — and a new life. Walt is there waiting to be relocated as well, and the two enter into a heated discussion. Saul fails to convince Walt that he should “stay and face the music” in New Mexico.

The stage is now set for Breaking Bad's final act

But Walt is intent on seeking revenge on Jack Welker and his gang — and to recover his tens of millions of dollars. “Then, and only then, am I through,” he barks at Saul. What’s more, he recounts his earlier telephone conversation with Skyler, certain that the police were listening. Walt’s convinced that she’s off the hook, saying, “As far as the police are concerned, Skyler is a blameless victim.” But after collapsing into a coughing fit, he reconsiders his plan.

”You really don’t want us coming back here”

Jack and his men have raided the Schrader residence, recovering much of the evidence that Hank had been collecting — including Jesse’s taped confession. After watching the tape, Jack is once again convinced that he needs to kill Jesse, but he’s saved yet again by Todd who’s dependant on him for quality meth cooks. Jack is convinced that Todd has the hots for Lydia and feels that this is his primary motivation for wanting to continue to cook and sell meth.

Which may very well be true. As his uncle pointed out, they’ve already got $70 million. Why risk anything? Todd responds by saying that all the methylamine would go to waste — but that seems a rather flimsy justification on the surface given the tremendous risks involved.

Speaking of risks, there’s that Skyler/Lydia connection for them to be concerned of. To that end, Todd and his men sneak into the White household — balaclavas and all — and threaten Skyler (who is under police protection/custody). They make her swear that she will never say anything to the police about Lydia. In what is a clear threat to Holly, Todd says to her, “You really don’t want us coming back here." It’s an ominous message, and Skyler agrees — but we're left wondering if there's more to come from this association.

Todd updates Lydia at a cafe and tries to reassure her that Skyler isn’t a threat. Lydia is duly unimpressed. But what does impress her is the revelation that Todd is brewing blue-colored meth at 92% purity, what she calls “Heisenberg level.” He lets her know that Jesse is cooking for them and that he’s not going anywhere. “We work together good,” he says to Lydia. “We make a good team.”

Though still distant, the Lydia/Todd collaboration is taking shape.

Cabin in the Woods

Walt has been relocated by Ed to a cabin in the wintry mountainous woods of New Hampshire (hence the title of the episode). He’s been given a new name, Mr. Lambert. For the next several months, Walt will be in hiding, and with no communication with the outside world. No phone, no internet, nothing. He lives 8 miles away from the closest town, and is advised by Ed to stay put. “You are the hottest client I’ve ever had by far,” he tells Walt, but “if you leave this place you will get caught. “

Walt’s clearly not happy with the situation, but realizes he’s in a bit of a pickle. He considers a trip to the town with a wad of cash, but reconsiders after looking down the snowy road. Indeed, it's not like Walt to just sit and wait.

”There’s still the kid”

Jesse, who’s still locked in a cage, has figured out how to undo his cuffs with the paperclip affixed to his picture of Andrea. But he’s recaptured after an escape attempt. “You might as well kill me now,” he shouts at Jack’s men, “There’s no way I’m doing one more cook for you psycho fucks!”

The stage is now set for Breaking Bad's final act

The following scene is about as grim and horrifying as it has ever gotten on Breaking Bad. Todd visits Andrea and tells her that he has Jesse with him. Todd then proceeds to execute Andrea as an outraged and forlorn Jesse is forced to watch. He’s told to calm down and to remember that “there’s still the kid” — a reference to Andrea’s son, Brock.

It's an unsettlingly dark moment.

It's yet another awful turn of events for Jesse Pinkman — and it makes you wonder if the writers are taking the brutalization of Jesse not just a little too far, but ridiculously too far. Jessica Winter of Slate has even accused the writers of engaging in a kind of “torture porn” as far as the character of Jesse is concerned.

But there is a valid consideration, here, and that’s the development of Jack’s gang in the larger scheme of the narrative. The reprehensible Neo-Nazis are still a relatively new addition to the series — and we certainly have a good hate on for them — but now that hate has been taken to the next level with the death of innocent Andrea. It’s some nice stage setting for what could be an extremely dramatic, violent — and cathartic — final episode.

”Things happened that I never intended”

We rejoin Walt in New Hampshire, but several months have passed. He’s now got the beard that we saw in an earlier fast forward. Ed pays him a visit and lets him know that Skyler has moved out of their home, is now working a part time gig as a taxi dispatcher, and that she’s going by her maiden name. Walt also learns that his house has been fenced up. Ed also brings some chemotherapy for Walt and helps him hook it up.

Walt is now very concerned about his health — and the future of his money, which sits in a lone barrel.

The stage is now set for Breaking Bad's final act

Walt decides to send some money back home. Pretending to be Marie, he gets Flynn (Walt Jr) on the phone, telling him, “Things happened that I never intended.” Walt informs his son that he’s going to send $100,000 to him via a trusted friend. But Junior will have none of it. “Just leave us alone you asshole!” he yells, “Why are you still alive? Just die already! Just die!”’

Walt’s relationship with his family, it now appears, is all but finished. Any kind of reconciliation is likely impossible.

And indeed, Walt, sensing this, decides to turn himself in. He calls the police and lets the phone hang as a way to tip them off to his whereabouts inside a local drinking establishment.

But as he’s waiting for the cops to arrive, he chances upon an episode of Charlie Rose in which Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz are talking about Gray Matter Technologies. They tell Rose (who plays himself) that Walt’s only contribution to the company was the name, and that the “sweet, kind man that we once knew — he’s gone.”

Ah, yes — a reminder that there are still some loose ends for Walt to shore up.

This has clearly rekindled something in Walt — something that brings out his Heisenberg persona. The police eventually raid the bar, but Walt is now long gone.

So the stage is set. But who will Walt’s angst be directed against? And just how, exactly, does he plan on getting it done?

Images: AMC.